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One soul departs, and another arrives . . .

One soul departs,

and  another arrives.

I have read the letter that follows many times and each time my heart—my soul, my spirit—soars to incredible heights, and then descends to incredible depths. I know that I am not worthy of those heights, but I would like to believe that I do not deserve to remain at those depths.

I have vowed that in the time I have remaining above ground on this sphere—this earth—I will dedicate my efforts, my will, to live my life in a way that honors my wife, my family, my friends and my God. I hasten to add that I will accord that honor in my own way and not necessarily in ways favored by our society, nor by actions sanctioned by various religious denominations. I know that I cannot undo the things I’ve done in my lifetime that I should not have done, but I can try with all my might to do the things I should do in the time I have left in this realm.

I will begin this writing by saying proudly that I have the finest neighbors anyone could possible have, a beautiful couple that lives just a few feet away on the west side of our house. The husband is a self-employed architect and the wife is an educator-at-large in local school districts. They have two grown sons and a brand-new granddaughter.

My wife was in hospice care, and shortly before she died our neighbor gave her a gold chain with a pendant fashioned into the I Love You symbol in American Sign Language. She expressed her sorrow to my wife for her illness and her sorrow that she could not be with her until the end—her elder son’s wife, living in a distant city, was near child delivery and the doctors anticipated problems with the baby. My wife died before the neighbor left, and the neighbor’s sorrow—her sadness—is eloquently expressed in the letter she gave me before she left.

With her permission I have reproduced the letter and am posting it exactly as written, including the pen-and-ink sentence at the top of the page. She professes little talent for writing, but in my opinion, unlettered and unfettered though my opinion may be, she has a tremendous talent for writing and should pursue that talent, whether as a vocation or as an avocation.

Her letter follows, exactly as written. The first sentence just above the poem—This was in my heart today—was written in ink in the upper margin:

This was in my heart today:

Courage is not the towering oak
That sees storms come and go,
It is the fragile blossom
That opens in the snow.
—Alice MacKenzie Swalm

Dear Mike,

You hurt so deeply…..so, so deeply. You are sad, on top of sad, on top of sad. And all I know to say is, “I’m sorry.” So trite…..it screams out that I can’t even begin to feel your pain. I want to just sit and cry, cry, cry with you. Janie left you for another. That will always break your heart. She left you, she left you…how could she? You were always there for her. Year after year, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, second after second…..you were always there for her. But she left anyway. Gone, gone, gone. You always knew that she would leave you. It never mattered. You would do it all over again if you could. If only you could.

She said that you were a “Good Man.” A good man. A loving man. A caring man. A clever man. A funny man. A loyal man. A knowledgeable  man. An interesting man. But a man all the same. Not perfect, but not a requirement for Janie.

And there lies the real beauty. Janie left room for others to live their own lives. To make their own mistakes. To make their own amends. To write their own stories. To make their own verses and rhymes. To be their own selves. To find their own beauty. To find their own strengths. To find their own weaknesses. No matter where you were in life, whether in the good or the bad, she welcomed you home when you were ready to be home. She didn’t push or prod. She just waited. She knew you would eventually come home. She led by example. Every needle, every probe, every surgery, every bruise, every doctor visit…she said, “Be strong. Be strong, be strong, be strong. It was her battle cry. No words needed. She screamed it out with the softest of cries. So strong…..yet so, so gentle.

I’m your neighbor. I’m just simply a neighbor. How could I be touched this way? For me, death and birth are coming at the same time. I didn’t want to choose one over the other. But here it is, saying choose, choose. Janie’s example said to pick life. Choose life, she said. It is with sadness that I go. Even when I should be filled with bubbling joy. Be strong, she says. Go and be strong.

You are a good neighbor. The best. Be strong. Be strong. Be strong. “Live” she says. Be strong. She will wait for you to come Home.

With Sad, Sad, Sadness,

Your Neighbor, Your Friend,

Kathy

Postscript: At the memorial for my wife, our daughters placed the “I Love You” pendant in their mother’s hands, along with a small card with Biblical quotations given to her many years ago by her sister, Christine. The only other jewelry was a gold chain with a small pendant that I brought home many years ago from a foreign assignment while in the military. The pendant has a French quotation that translates as “I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.”

My neighbor is back home now and back in work harness. Her granddaughter, Caitlan, was delivered successfully by Caesarian surgery. The baby weighed eight pounds and two ounces at birth, and she is healthy, happy and growing by leaps and bounds.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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A prowling Avatar . . .

The photo below was posted by one of my three daughters, the one that lives, loves, laughs, labors and languishes in Northern Virginia. Click here for her posting and for the comment I made on the photograph. I am so pleased with my comment that I’m bringing it out of the Stygian darkness of comments into the bright light of day in order to share it with my host of highly erudite visitors.

This is the comment I made on the photo:

I can’t believe that no one has seen the various animals in this photo. Even with my limited imagination and poor eyesight I count ten clearly defined figures. I see a yellow French poodle peering over the top of the center blossom, and below and to the left of the poodle is a setting quail, and behind the quail is a small creature peeping out of its burrow with nose, eyes and ears defined.

To the right, perched on a green leaf is a marine animal, perhaps a salamander or similar aquatic dweller, out for a breath of fresh air. Above and behind him a floral cobra lurks, its hood flared out and head tilted forward, probably ready to strike the salamander. Below and to the left is a yellow long-beaked fuzzy animal, rather plump, with a side-mounted eye showing and a curiously curved beak. Above that fellow is an elongated animal with its front legs encircling the fuzzy one’s beak, its eye, nose and mouth clearly defined.

There are several fish, one at the left of the center blossom and one at the left of the bottom blossom. Both are swimming toward the left of the photo.

And finally, the cutest and most amazingly proportioned animal is in the center of the lower bloom. He has a long body with only two legs, both clearly defined, and what resembles a propeller at the tail end of his body. He obviously uses the propeller for water travel and drags himself along on the two front legs on land. He has a cute face with his forehead, nose, mouth and eye clearly defined, and he has really long laid-back ears.

I count at least ten creatures in this photo. What say you, readers of this blogger and viewers of her photographs? Do you see these ten, and can you find even more?

Nice shot, Cindy. Keep shooting, but watch out for the wildlife among the flowers.

Oops, I found one more. Check out the hooded Avatar standing upright in the center, carrying some sort of pouch and reaching up to the little guy peering out of its burrow. Looking for dinner, perhaps?

Unless I miscounted, that makes eleven  creatures living among this group of blossoms. Who would have ever thunk it?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2010 in flowers

 

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Ponce de Leon finds a flower first . . .

One of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and works in Alexandria, Virginia recently posted a photo of a gorgeous highly complicated plant on her blog. This is the princess that in age and maturity falls somewhere between my first-born and my last-born daughters. Click here to go to her blog and enjoy a photographic journey that covers the state, the nation and various distant parts of the globe—be prepared to spent a lot of time there—it’s well worth the visit! Be sure to read her Stuff About Me page, located on the right of her home page. If you’ve never been to Alaska, Antarctica and deep into the four sections of the United States—dozens and dozens of locations in the north, south, east and west quadrants, with emphasis on the Four Corners of the Southwest—and Canada, Spain, Italy and other foreign countries, she’ll take you there with her photography and her writings. Be forewarned—it’s highly addictive!

She captioned the photo as follows (it’s pictured at the close of this posting):

Your guess is as good as mine!

It looks like a Gaura plant, but I’m just not sure, and the plant wasn’t labeled at Green Spring Gardens this morning. Any one venture to guess? Patty? The sprigs tend to lean downward, like a waterfall.

I commented on the posting and chastised her for failing to research the Internet in an effort to identify the plant. Having a bit of spare time on my hands—well, a lot of spare time—I spent a few minutes on research and the results of my effort are shown in the narrative analysis below. I was pleased with my findings, so pleased that I decided to bring my comment up from and out of the Stygian darkness of comments and into the bright light of a separate posting in order to share those findings with my viewers.

This is my comment, exactly as entered:

thekingoftexas (03:52:16) :

I am in shock! You don’t know? My guess is as good as yours? Evidently you made no effort to identify the flower by researching the internet. I found it in less than ten minutes!

This is the Flower of Paradice—no, not the paradise flower, that gorgeous bloom also called crane flower (Strelitzia reginae), an ornamental plant of the family Strelitziaceae.

Note that in the spelling of the Flower of Paradice, the ess in paradise is replaced with a cee. The flower was discovered by the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon (1474 – July 1521) in his search for the fountain of youth. He believed it to be in what is now the state of Florida, but he ultimately turned his attention to Venezuela, spurred on by a notation he had found in a centuries-old document indicating that the fountain of youth was at the foot of what is now known as Angel Falls.

After an arduous journey fraught with perils and nearing the end of his life, he arrived at the falls but found that the pool at the foot of the falls failed to restore his youth. However, he did discover something there that would shake the scientific world, especially the world of flowers and that would ultimately have an effect on locations such as Las Vegas and Reno and Atlantic City—he discovered an unusual and theretofore unknown blossom that he almost immediately christened the Flower of Paradice—the Spanish name of the flower is “La flor que pasa siempre inmediatamente,” the flower that always passes immediately.

You see, Ponce de Leon was addicted to the game of dice—craps, if you will—and he noted that each bloom of the plant was graced with six beautiful petals and five golden yellow thingies protruding from the center of the bloom for a total of eleven elements and, much as did the great Pythagoras on his discovery of the 47th Problem of Euclid when he exclaimed Eureka!, a Grecian word meaning “I have found it,” Ponce de Leon shouted “Eleven!” He meant that he had found a flower with a total of eleven elements in its bloom, and to one addicted to the game of dice, the number eleven is magic—eleven along with seven are the two numbers in the game of craps that give the shooter an immediate win.

Sadly, Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth and he died at the age of 47. His many discoveries in his travels contributed greatly to our knowledge of the new world, and we are indebted to him for his discovery and naming of this beautiful flower.

A special note: Journey to any one of the world’s great gaming sites and head for the crap tables—there you will find that many of the high rollers wear a Flower of Paradice or a facimile of such—a ring or perhaps even a tattoo, just for luck.

PeeEss: I stated that on his discovery Ponce de Leon shouted, “Eleven!” but the actual word he shouted was once, the Spanish word for the number eleven, pronounced as on’ce with the accent on the first syllable. I used the English word to avoid the reader untutored in Spanish pronouncing it as the English word once, meaning one time only, a single occurrence, etc.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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